Monday, October 25, 2010

Jeff Ruby's at the River City Casino

This casino has been open for less than a year and here is what is likely the best restaurant in the casino: besides the 1904 Beerhouse, which I have already reviewed.  Jeff Ruby's steak house is made in an early 1900's French style that brings a classy elegance with a nice and non-stuffy atmosphere.  My wife and I had no reservation and walked right in to a nice booth and great service.  Our servers John and Ian helped answer any questions we had and were still very nice to us, even though we didn't look like a million bucks, or at least I didn't, (my wife did).  The room was dimly lit as lights near the ceilings were aimed up at the red walls and shone down a reddish/pinkish light tint to the whole room.  We sat in a nice booth, very comfortable and had some nice paintings of King Louis to the right of us.  I think it was not busy because the Big Game was last night. 

While waiting for everything, we had a basket of bread and butter delivered to us.  The bread was a few slices of rye and white bread and the butter was a side of creamed butter with a side of black truffle butter.
We looked over the menu and after ordering our drinks and had a pleasant conversation with John, we ordered and received the first part of our meals: our salads.  My wife had ordered the Cesar salad and I ordered the Freddie salad.  The Freddie salad was the first ever BLT salad and if you had a piece of bacon, lettuce and tomato on each fork full, it did taste just like a BLT.  Anything with bacon is better and as a salad, it was good: 3 out of 5 stars.

For our main course, we both ordered steaks, as what else do you order at a steakhouse?  I ordered the Steak Collinsworth which was a 9oz fillet topped with two very large pieces of asparagus and 3 pieces of crab meat.  There was a Bearnaise sauce on top of it all as it was stacked high.
I had given the crab meat to my wife, who enjoys it.  Let me tell you about this steak:  I had asked for it to be cooked medium well and it was perfectly cooked.  Not only that, but it was so tender that even though I had a wisdom tooth taken out this past Wednesday and this meal was on Saturday, my jaw still hurt and I couldn't eat anything pretty much at all on the right side of my mouth, the steak melted like butter, in my mouth.  I didn't have to struggle or hardly even chew this steak.  I had to cut it, but once it was in my mouth it fell apart like a very good pot-roast.  It was juicy, had a nice salty crust and I even had the Bearnaise sauce to dip it in.  It was very good and was easily the best steak I had ever eaten.  Even better than the steak I had at Delmonico's in Las Vegas. The sauce was a bit too rich and salty for my taste and about half way through the steak, I had to stop using the sauce.  The asparagus was a tiny, itsy bit, undercooked, but still good, as they were likely just blanched in some salt water.  I had a side of mashed potatoes to go with the dish and while they were mashed potatoes from Jeff Ruby's, there was nothing special about them at all.  No secret spices, no flavorings, no truffles, no garlic or rosemary; nothing but potatoes, a pat of butter and some milk.  It didn't even have a creamy consistency that my wife enjoys so much, but still could stand on its own.  I started to dip the steak into the mashed potatoes as I ate as I love my potatoes.  Overall, the dish was great, for the best steak I have ever eaten, it garnered a 4 & 1/2 out of 5 stars from me.  What robbed it from the 1/2 star was the rest of the plate.

In the Midwest, we tend to cover everything in sauce or gravy and this was no exception. The dish had too much sauce and I actually started to grow tired of the dish and wanted to stop eating it as there was too much sauce and it was a bit salty.  Had there been only a few drops of this sauce, instead of  1/2 cup of it, the dish would have been perfect: in everything.

  My wife had ordered the Queen's cut, which isn't on their online menu, but was also a 9oz fillet.  It was also served with a side of mashed potatoes and neither one of us could figure out why the mashed potatoes were served in small skillets when it obviously was not cooked in them.  A bad plating choice, in my mind.  My wife had remarked that it was a perfectly cooked, in her medium rare request.  She had suggested that it was perhaps a 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars as she has had better tasting steaks.  She complained that the crust was too salty, as did I, and as you can see there was a bit too much oil on her plate; as you can see in the yellowish tinted liquid on her plate.

What made-up for most of the bad parts of this meal was the great service.  Our server, John, was knowledgeable about some of the cooking methods and answered any and all of our questions.  I would definitely go back and recommend this restaurant.  Try to get in John's section, if you do.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Is cooking an art or a science?

I love to cook, I really do, but cooking every day can get a bit boring and tedious when you are a father of two young boys and half of your cooking time involves keeping tiny hands away from the stove/oven and the counter top where you are cutting and working. However, as one who failed chemistry, the first time, will tell you, science is hard at first and then easy on the second run.

What am I dribbling about?

Molecular Gastronomy is the fancy way of saying 'art of cooking' without the art part but meaning more of the science of cooking.  With cooking you learn how to boil and egg and how to make ice.  But, with the science part, the molecular gastronomy part, you learn why the egg cooks and how the ice is formed from the water.

In a container pour 250 grams of H2O and submit to sub-freezing temperatures of 32 degrees F or below.

Why does ice form?  As the water becomes colder, the liquid condenses to the point where it becomes a solid.  Knowing this, and knowing that each crystal that forms in ice is important to its structure can give someone the information to play with it; perhaps by making ice cream or sorbets.  Once you have the science down, you can do whatever you want within the rules of the formula and therefore use art and creativity.  So, perhaps the art could follow the science.

On the other hand, inventors over time pretty much decided to do things through trial and error and not cared about the science, in a way.  If I mix chocolate sauce and milk together and create chocolate sauce, I am not trying to come up with a new balance of chocolate particles swimming in the immersion.  I will not measure the chocolate down to the gram and the milk as well as try many different experiments to see which one of which amounts I like the most.  I will simply squeeze the bottle a bit longer for more chocolate.  Its not science, its creativity and fun. 

Now, my wife decided to cook a chicken this week.  It is simple science: you clean the chicken, cook it on all sides in a hot pan to get the skin done a bit.  Then you place it in a Dutch Oven for about 20 minutes per pound at 350 degrees F and then an additional 15 minutes after that.  Our 7 pound bird was stuffed with some fresh herbs, from our garden, along with a mix of vegetables that were cut and placed inside here with some water. A bit over two hours later, this is what came out.  There is a science behind it and we know that if we place it in the oven for this long that it will come out cooked, filling the whole house with that indistinguishable smell of roasted chicken, and any liquid in the pot as well will be the best tasting broth we have ever had.  My wife knew this, she knew this would happen, so after she had the science down, she went on with the recipe, her way, by adding her own mix of herbs and vegetables.

Is my wife and expert scientist?  No, but she can cook well and that shows you that art can come after the science.  I am thinking of only our examples in this case, but am almost certain that art follows the science when cooking, just like the form follows the function.

Does anyone else think the same or different?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Video games and food, my two great loves

If you have played a video game in the last 20 years, then you most likely have come across this concept: food gives you health.  Whether it was the older games like Pac Man or the most recent games, like my favorite, Bioshock, then you are aware that food is used to either give you more points or more health. 

I remember playing the original Gauntlet games with my friend and while playing as the Wizard, if your health was low and you walked into the food, it would replenish some health and give a sound bite :"Food is good".  I believe that it was the easiest way to represent health and the replenishment of health besides using a white item with a red cross on it.  For us, as humans, we know that our health will grow or replenish if we eat food.  Even a 3 year old knows that if you eat food, your stomach doesn't hurt and you can give your body the nutrients to fight off infections and other things.  If you don't eat, you get hungry and your body loses the nutrients that it needs.  In fact, if you stop eating, your body still tries to go through the processes and will cannibalize your own body to keep it going.  For example; if you don't have enough calcium in your body, your body will start to leach it from your bones.  If you don't have enough proteins, your body will start to break down your muscle and use it for other things.

For instance, we will look at one of my favorite games: Bioshock.  In Bioshock, when your character needs to replenish health, this can be done so with the normal medical pack or with a box of bandages, but this can also be done by eating food or taking other consumables.  Taking in vitamins, canned food, pep bar, potato chips and creme filled cakes, will raise your health back just a bit. 

Another one of my favorite games is the Castlevania series and in this game, finding things like a chicken leg or roast beef will replenish health.  Let's be honest though, if you were traveling for a day in some dark, cold and wet forests in Moldavia hunting after a werewolf, there is probably nothing more tasty than a nice roasted chicken leg or a giant plate of roast beef.  Think of the amount of good stuff in one of those dishes: a minimum amount of fat, tons of good proteins and filling as ever.  Besides, when was the last time that you have eaten a plate of roast beef or roasted chicken and not felt 'goo' afterwards?

My 4 year old, first started playing video games when he was 2 & 1/2 years old.  He picked it up all by himself, when he noticed that his character could eat food that he liked.  So, his guy walks over and grabs the cake or the carrot and he feels better.  Besides, my son loves carrots and cake.

Now, a history of video games would reveal that as the games first started out, food was shown as a way to acquire points.  It wasn't until games started with actual characters with a life bar or a health percentage, that food helped bring back that health. While this information isn't anything else that you couldn't find on your own, I do like to point out that it is only something that occurs in video games.  When was the last time that you saw Bruce Willis scarf down a burger and fries while shooting up terrorists on the silver screen?  Food is just food in the movies, as if characters do get hurt or injured enough, they can't instantly heal, as it is more attuned with real life.  Honestly, if a character in a game had to rescue his love from an evil winged devil, and he had 12 hours or less to do so, finding food would not help him.  Reminds me of another thing that they omit in movies even: potty breaks.  In a great movie, like Die Hard, you never see anyone use the bathroom.  But in the movie True Lies, you see Arnold use the toilet.  That makes the movie a little more realistic, as opposed to video games.  Imagine if your mage had to take a piss while on a fast raid through the Arthas' throne?  You would be there forever.   

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Unleashing the monster

 I have to admit it, though I have given up soda, or strongly carbonated beverages that have no nutritional value, I do support and drink the lo-carb version of the Monster energy drink.  Now, most energy drinks contain sugar and caffeine and while that may be the norm for them all, the low-carb Monster energy drink seems to be at least somewhat healthy and good for you.

Unlike other energy drinks, Monster actually has vitamins and other chemicals that are considered antioxidants.  One can of Monster gives you twice of your RDA for B12, for instance.  This chemical is essential to your immune system and your health.  Taurine is listed as an ingredient and this chemical has been shown to act as an antioxidant and help the body run better.

Now the first energy drink was likely Irn-Brew, which was introduced in 1901 in Scotland.  Iron Brew, as it became known as, contains as many as 32 secret ingredients and while I would love to find out why it is so popular and what it did to become the first 'energy drink', it has such a large secret that only two people know of it at any one time and they cannot be at the same place at the same time; for safety.

Now, what are some issues with the other drinks?  Well, in particular, the largest competitor with Monster is Red Bull.  What is in a Red Bull and can it really give you wings.

Red Bull is adapted from a Thai energy drink that when the name is translated into English, gives you "Red Bull".  It was introduced worldwide in 1987 and is considered the most famous energy drink of the world.  Red bull contains Taurine, caffeine, B vitamins, Glucuronolactone, Sucrose and Glucose.  There is 110 calories in a single 8.3 oz can.  It has 27 grams of sugar, 100% of your daily Niacin(B3), 80% of your B12, 250% of your B6 and 50% of your Pantothenic Acid(B5).

Taurine is an antioxidant which has been shown to also help lower bad cholesterol levels in the blood
Caffeine is the thing that gives us that buzz
B Vitamins are important for a healthy metabolism and immune system
Glucuronolactone is a sweetening agent that helps to detoxify the body
Sucrose is your basic table sugar
Glucose is the simple sugar that is produced by plants during photosynthesis
Pantothenic Acid is vitamin B5 which is important for a healthy metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins

Now a Monster drink, in particular, the regular Monster drink, since I looked at the regular Red Bull, is 2.5 servings in a single can.  Red bull only lists but a small number of ingredients on their site or anywhere else while Monster lists as many as 15-20 ingredients.  A serving size of Monster will let you have 27 grams of sugar, 100% of your B2, 100% of your B3, 100% of your B6 and 100% of your B12. Also, it is not listed on the Nutritional table, but Monster does list Pantothenic Acid(B5) as an ingredient.  So, it does in fact contain the B5 that Red Bull has as well.

So, Monster has more B12, less B6 and B2 and some B5.  So, what is the difference?

B2 is important in the creation of energy from metabolism.  So, having this is ideal.  Monster wins.
B6 is a major co enzyme for reactions that help with the metabolism.  Red Bull wins.
B5 is for metabolism of fats, carbs and proteins. There is a tie.
B3 is for DNA repair. Tie for both.
B12 is for the brain and nervous system.  Monster wins, as it has more.

From what it looks like, B2 is actually more powerful than B5, so having the ability to get a greater amount of energy from foods is better than being able to metabolize the foods at all, I think.  Also, with the additional 20% of your daily B12, Monster seems to take the win.

Again, I prefer the low-carb Monster which doesn't give me the sugar and gives me the vitamins and nutrients that my body needs.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The party, this Saturday night, starts at 7:00pm

I know that this is not my usual bunch of banter, my collection of innocuous facts and figures and formulas about ingredients found at the back of the shelves at the store or some sugar free dishes made out of 3 things that taste like it was made of 30; but this topic in particular needs a place and that place is here.  Whether one knows it or not, St. Louis has a large presence of burlesque performers.  These ladies show their stuff while doing dances and acts that are reminiscent of the old days.  These women are not all "average" or "large" women but women in every size that show that all it takes is a bit of tease to drive any man wild; while not having to strip completely naked.  When most people hear of the word "burlesque" they are thinking of the girls whom in the past few years have made the art of tease into nothing short of a strip show. However, the girls of burlesque ion St. Louis, do a great job keeping up with the traditions of the skill and keeping it sexy without being dirty.

Ariana Bauer started to photograph these burlesque girls earlier this year, in positions that show the art and skill of burlesque and the beauty of the women.  These pictures that show the art and the time that Ariana spent editing them are up for show during her gallery showing, October 2-9th.

Even though it has nothing to do with food of any kind, nor anything that I am cooking or preparing, I highly suggest that anyone who likes seeing pictures of girls, to check out the gallery.  The prints are all moderately priced and most of these will be signed by the girl that is featured in the artwork.  Not only could you buy the limited edition, one of a kind signed print, but then you can meet the girl in the artwork at the gallery show!

While the 2nd through 8th is open to everyone and you can see and buy these wonderful works of art, the real fun is the closing party on the 9th.  Starting at 7pm, all of the big name burlesque performers of the St. Louis area will be present.  So, if you have a thing for Lola van Ella, not only can you buy a brilliant piece of artwork with her as the main feature, but you can also meet her!  Why would you miss your chance to meet these sexy performers?

Featuring Images of:
Lola van Ella
Foxy La Feelion
Faith McQueen
GoGo McGregor
Jeez Loueez
Gravity Plays Favorites
Roxy Rockets
Dewy DeCamille
Dimples Divine
Bella Sue DeVianti
Angel Saint-Marie
Fiona Flame
Moxy Malicious
Honeysuckle Rose
Sammich the Tramp
and more

Soulard Art Market
2028 S. 12th Street
Saint Louis, MO 63104
(314) 258-4299
Corner of 12th and Russell, across from McGurks Pub

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thank you Mr. Bourdain

Through a gift to me and my wife, I was lucky enough to come within throwing distance of Mr. Anthony Bourdain; writer, chef and world traveler.  Now, I will admit, that while he is a celebrity chef, I don't tend to get star struck. I know that there were many women there wearing slutty outfits in the hopes of getting hit on or looked over by him.  After a long wait, at 8pm exactly, Mr. Bourdain took the sage, nervous, fidgety and talkative.

He shared with us his life story, his thoughts and his feelings about the way the world treats him and others like him.  His talk reminded me of the time I saw Bill Cosby give his talk.  Comedy mixed with undertones of truth.  Mr. Bourdain talks and writes with such truth and such common vernacular that you realize that as he said, this man, has no special skills: he has been lucky. He said it himself: he was lucky enough to write something that originally he thought was crap and no one would read.  But his story was one that explained the real world of cooking and revealed what was behind that romantic view of a chef.  He split the facade open and showed the world what life was like, working behind the grill at a fancy restaurant.  His uncensored language broke the mold on how a chef should behave and earned a nickname of a bad boy chef/writer.  He was lucky and I only wish to be so lucky.  Not so much with my writing or cooking but maybe just a little of both.

I can say though, whether you are hearing him and seeing him speak or sharing a quick 30 second conversation with him while signing his book, he's not a snob.  This is a piece of truth that you must know about him and he probably wants to hide forever.  No matter how long you talk to him or who you are, he is genuinely interested in what you say.  Its not like other celebrity chefs who just push everything through.  Anthony Bourdain arrived in St. Louis a few hours before his show, stayed for an hour or so afterwards for book signings, then left a few hours later.  I can't imagine that amount of jet lag that this father would be feeling and the sight of him coming home and just crashing onto his bed like a tree being felled in a mighty forest. 

Maybe he was drunk or high on Jesus but whatever it was Mr. Bourdain took the stage and commanded such a presence that everyone didn't land their eyes off of him.  As I said, he didn't laugh at anyone during the question and answer part and even a simple view of pain and hope could be seen in his eyes, when the young child stood up and after announcing that he was diagnosed with leukemia this year, wanted Anthony to suggest the place with the best seafood.  You could tell that unlike the bad-ass that he presents on TV, Mr. Bourdain is an honest and caring guy. 

Even though our meeting was brief and short lived, I would like to enjoy meeting him for a few more minutes, or even let him allow me to buy him a Guinness.

Shout out: to all other chefs, I want to meet you!